Shannon Airport is confident of a return to passenger growth this year after taking a significant hit from the grounding of Boeing's 737-Max aircraft and a Brexit-related downturn in UK visitors to Ireland during 2019.
"The global grounding of the Boeing 737-Max, for safety reasons, saw us lose 120,000 seats, which affected our Norwegian Airlines and Air Canada services to North America," said Mary Considine, chief executive of Shannon Group, the entity which owns the airport as well as Shannon Heritage, the Shannon Free Zone and Shannon Commercial Properties.
"This was a disproportionate hit for Shannon compared to other Irish airports. Last year also saw the ending of Kuwait Airways' transit flights through Shannon to New York, which we secured in June 2016 as a temporary service until the airline received approval for direct flights into the US," Ms Considine said.
However, she said the airport closed 2019 on a strong footing with the announcement of three new services in the form of a Vienna route with Ryanair subsidiary Lauda; and Aer Lingus adding routes to Paris and Barcelona.
"The development of high quality international air connectivity for the people of our region will continue to be a critical focus for us," Ms Considine said.
"To this end, we will continue to explore opportunities and ensure our catchment, from the north-west down to the south, is aware of and takes full advantage of the exciting schedule we have across the UK, Europe and the US in 2020. The more our services are used, the more services we get," she said.
Elsewhere, a year after the grounding of Boeing's 737-Max sent shockwaves across the aviation sector, its likely return this year promises more upheaval, consultant IBA has warned.
The industry faces market turbulence as the release of some 800 grounded jets reverses a surge in narrowbody aircraft values, with the glut of planes potentially weighing on fares, IBA said.
Since the Max grounding last March, after two deadly crashes, airline customers have secured alternative planes or extended existing leases, driving up contract rates and second-hand values of Boeing and Airbus single-aisle jets.
Airlines and lessors face a whiplash effect from the jet’s return to service and resulting “capacity glut,” IBA said, compounded by uncertainty over the timing of its recertification by the US Federal Aviation Administration.
Through the International Aviation Services Centre, or IASC, the Shannon Group supports the development of a cluster of over 80 aviation companies based in the Shannon Free Zone.
-additional reporting Reuters